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Meeting the needs of people with disabilities, their families, educators & service providers

Posts Tagged ‘counseling’

School district’s discontinuation of student’s 1:1 aide appropriate where student would be instructed by a special education teacher in small group.

Friday, December 16th, 2011

E.D. v. Bedford Central School District, 57 IDELR 191 (S.D.N.Y. 2011):  A U.S. District Court upheld the New York State Review Officer’s (SRO’s) decision that the school district offered an appropriate program to a student with specific learning disabilities and ADHD.  As a result, the student’s parents’ claim for tuition reimbursement was denied.

The student previously received the services of a 1:1 aide while in elementary school to address his attention issues due to the student’s placement in a general education classroom.  As the student moved to middle school, the district discontinued the 1:1 aide and instead placed the student in integrated co-teaching classrooms for math and ELA, and also assigned a consultant teacher for his other core academic classes.  In each of these classes, a special education teacher would be modifying the general instruction for a group of students, with a maximum of six students in each group.

In addition to the specialized instruction, the student was also to receive instruction in a building level support class to allow his special education teacher the opportunity to reinforce concepts and preview materials.  Also, the student’s IEP provided for speech services and counseling to address language deficiencies and social/emotional issues.  In light of all the services offered, the SRO determined (and the Court agreed) that the student’s varied needs would have been met and the district therefore offered an appropriate program.  Accordingly, the parents’ request for tuition reimbursement for their unilateral placement was denied.

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School district may be held liable for student’s suicide if it failed to address bullying.

Friday, November 25th, 2011

Estate of Lance v. Lewisville Independent School District, 57 IDELR 168 (E.D. Tex. 2011): A U.S. District Court allowed a suit to proceed alleging that a school district failed to protect a young student with disabilities who committed suicide. The nine year old student, who was diagnosed with an emotional disturbance, a learning disability, and a speech impairment, was bullied by his peers.

The student was called “gay” by other students due to his speech impairment. His classmates were intimidated to avoid him or find themselves subject to ridicule as well. Due to the repeated bullying, the district convened its IEP Team to discuss the student’s depression and resulting suicidal ideation. The district referred the student for a full psychological assessment, which noted a possible disorder on the autism spectrum. The district recommended counseling four times per six week period and implemented a behavior intervention plan.

The student was disciplined as a result of his responses to the bullying, resulting in his placement in an alternative school. Despite the parent’s insistence that the student’s behavior (which resulted in the discipline) was a response to bullying, the district failed to investigate. The student admitted to having suicidal thoughts, to the counselor at the alternative school, but there was no record of the counselor notifying anyone of such admission. After returning to his regular classroom, the student was again subjected to bullying and sent to in-school suspension. While using the restroom in the nurse’s office during his suspension, the student hung himself.

As a result of the circumstances surrounding the student’s suicide, the Court allowed the case to proceed due to a potential “special relationship” between the school and the student where, due to his disabilities, young age, and the affirmative acts taken by the district, the district may be held liable for a violation of the student’s constitutional rights.

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Omission of counseling services from student’s IEP was harmless error that did not deny student FAPE

Monday, May 16th, 2011

M.H. v. New York City Department of Education, 56 IDELR 69 (S.D.N.Y. 2011): Agreeing with the decision of the state review officer (SRO), a federal district court from New York determined that the omission of the duration and frequency of counseling services in the Related Services section of the IEP of a student with anxiety and emotional issues did not deny the student a free appropriate education (FAPE).  Such omission was “harmless error” since counseling was discussed elsewhere in the IEP, the frequency and duration of counseling services were in the IEP meeting minutes, and the service was actually provided to the student.

The Court also rejected the parents’ argument that the school district did not timely arrange for the appropriate special education program and services to be provided to the student within 60 days of the receipt of parental consent to evaluate the student, consistent with New York state law.  Although the parents provided the school district with a letter on February 27, 2009 requesting that a FAPE be provided to the student, the school district did not receive the parents’ consent to evaluate until April 3, 2009.  Since a request for services is not the same as a consent to evaluate, the May 29, 2009 IEP meeting was timely.

Moreover, the Court concluded that the school district did not violate the law when it decided to rely on evaluations independently obtained by the parents, instead of conducting its own evaluations.

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Under special circumstances, IEP may not have to specify the length of each session of a related service.

Friday, December 17th, 2010

Letter to Matthews, 55 IDELR 142 (OSEP 2010):  The U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), in response to an inquiry from an attorney, stated that it is consistent with federal IDEA regulations for an IEP not to specify the length of each session of a related service (in this case, counseling), as long as the IEP clearly states the total number of minutes that each service must be provided.  Federal regulations require that the IEP “include information about the amount of services that will be provided to the child, so that the level of the agency’s commitment of resources will be clear to parents and other IEP team members.”

The IEP in question provided for 600 minutes of counseling per semester over sixteen weekly sessions, but stated that the session times may vary according to the student’s responsiveness, session activity and the student’s individual needs.  OSEP noted that most IEPs would need to state the minutes per session in order to comply with federal law.  However, “there may be special circumstances where the amount of time for each session of related services may vary in order to meet the needs of an individual student.”  Nothing in the IDEA would bar a school district from arranging an IEP similar to the one in question here, at least insofar as “special circumstances” exist that may best be served by varied lengths of sessions.

OSEP left open the question of whether the IEP’s language was consistent with the state’s guidance regarding duration of services (which stated that “how long each ‘session’ will last (number of minutes)” should be included).  OSEP deemed the state agency’s guidance consistent with federal law, provided it took into account that some circumstances may require a less specific statement of duration.

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